In the 1940s and 50s, London`s own Ealing Studios brought us a steady stream of classic comedies and dramas. From crime capers such as The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob to the delightful light comedies of Passport to Pimlico and The Titfield Thunderbolt, the studios made their name in rib-tickling follies that to this very day never fail to raise a smile.
Of course, a handful of more dramatic ventures were produced during this period, including the high-flying Out of the Clouds, chronicling a somewhat eventful twenty-four hours at what was then London Airport.
Based on John Fores` novel The Springboard, Basil Dearden (Dead of Night, Khartoum) presents us with a collection of snapshots into the lives of the staff and passengers of the airport, from Anthony Steel`s gambling addicted pilot, caught up in a smuggling ring to fuel his vices, to Robert Beatty`s tragic duty officer, told he can no longer fly by the airport doctor. David Knight and Margo Lorenz meanwhile play a couple of young foreigners suddenly swept away in an unfortunate case of love at first sight. As a blanket of fog suddenly traps our ensemble cast in the airport overnight, each of the characters must confront their issues whilst at the same time keeping up a very 1950s British stiff upper lip.
Celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, Studiocanal has collaborated with the BFI in order to painstakingly remaster Out of the Clouds, landing it beautifully in the twenty-first century. Very much a serenade to the bygone days of air travel, Dearden captures the innocence and properness of international jet-setting in the fifties. Glamourous air hostesses, charming pilots and friendly security guards, joking cheerfully about the daftness of immigration control make us realize just how much of a bureaucratic nightmare flying is nowadays.
Delightful in its tone and setting, it is nonetheless unsurprising that Out of the Clouds was rather overshadowed by Ealing Studios` other films; the narrative is not uncompelling, but at the same time lacks any real direction or (save for Marie Lohr`s sleeping tablet obsessed old lady) particularly engaging characters. The love story is rather clichéd, even for its time, and the “love at first sight” obsession of Knight’s American traveller with its swirling music and endless sweeping off feet is all quite silly rather than endearing. Added to this, the fact that every female character seems to get proposed to at some point in the film, in a comedy would perhaps have been quaint, but here feels rather ridiculous.
All in all, Out of the Clouds is a wonderful snapshot into days past, but is by no means a contender amongst its rather more flighty contemporaries.
Dir: Basil Dearden
Scr: John Eldridge, Michael Relph
Starring: Anthony Steel, Robert Beatty, Eunice Gayson, Bernard Lee
Prd: Michael Relph, Eric Williams
DOP: Paul Beeson
Music: Richard Addinsell
Run time: 88 mins
Out of the Clouds is available on DVD now via StudioCanal.